THE FLASH #33 story by Robert Venditti, Van Jensen, Art by Brett Booth, inks by Norm Rapmund, Colors by Andrew Dalhouse is a speeding story; but to where? Let’s find out shall we.
I have not been reading the Flash title per se; I know for a while under Francis Manapul it was gorgeous and was one of DC’s best books since he was placed on art duties (Golden Glider, enough said). I specifically remember the panel of Iris and Barry up on the top of a building and Iris wearing a speedster suit as well. It was the prettiest thing. I am assuming that plot has moved on as Iris no longer seems to be in the costumed world. She also doesn’t look a thing like Manapul’s Iris but heyyyy different artist what can you do.
With this new crew we’ve been flip flopping between the present and the future, with Barry sporting his very Electric Superman-chic blue Flash costume, which I’m pretty sure something similar was considered for Wally preboot. This issue has Barry trying to juggle working on a murder case, and checking up on Wally, who has been getting into trouble. In the future it looks like he’s mucking up time again, saving the Trickster from committing a crime that kills a family, causing him to commit suicide. This is fairly standard superhero comic fare, nothing here is really pushing any boundaries and while solid it doesn’t particular stand out like the former team managed to do.
First a negative: I don’t really like Brett Booth’s art, I do not like it in a box, I do not like it with a fox. The way Booth draws normal people is just…bad. His faces are awful, proportions can be wonky, his clothing and how clothing sits on people’s bodies are usually pretty awful for men and women alike and that plus haircuts tend to be a bit out of date style-wise. He’s got one of those distinct (now sort of retro) 90s feel to his work which immediately brings to mind smells of taco flavored snack food and Super Nintendo video games. I look at that era of comics and teenage media with some affection as I did experience it as a child, but not being a teen during that time that “exxxtreme/radicalll” feel looks rather old hat today when you have titles like Ms. Marvel truly channeling a current fresh aesthetic. Not that Barry is a teenager, but the look and feel. It’s just the same old, same old.
Okay, its not all terrible, and I will, as this is the positives, I commend his action scenes; a lot have some pretty good flow, and he draws a nice “speed effect” for Barry and some of the paneling is actually pretty nice and very artful. This is in contrast to say Rocafort over on Teen Titans who can draw very pretty portraits but his action can look rather stilted. Booth can also draw pretty awesome dinosaurs. I actually do think Booth has some rather good talent and chops, but just like say, Guillem March, their personal tastes tend to get in a way of their abilities.
My compliment/positive here is actually when a character in this issue, Jones, hulks out into this Attack on Titan skinless Bane…thing, I actually really like how he drew that and the battle he and Barry have. It’s very dynamic.
However I will say I think a lot of the really attractive pages on this book are probably due to the colorist Dalhouse. He understands color, it’s bright and colorful but it also follows DC’s current house style rather well, which I call ” Bland primaries, very blue”. The pages that have a more unified purple and orange toned look here were perhaps the nicest in the book.
I’m still on the fence about Wally. I’m all for diversity and in my own DC fan-webcomic that I pen, Batgirl Inc, we are racebending many DC characters in a very similar manner, but for some reason, the change rubs me the wrong way here. Maybe it was erasing of his already bi-racial marriage and children? Perhaps it’s changing his personality along with the racebend to that of a “punk” and a kid who gets into trouble. That comes off as stereotypical and that is prey offensive. Add in white Barry being the one who will probably help him out to be good and it just gets groan inducing. In all, at the root I think there were some good intentions but ultimately bad execution. Plus, they could have still given Wally his signature red hair and freckles and be African American. Because African Americans also have red hair and freckles. It’s the lack of taking creativity that much farther that sort of puts me off to this new very young iteration. The fact they made Bart not Bart, and evil and got rid of him, and now made Wally a contemporary at least in age to that of Tim Drake and the Titans and not a good friend to Dick Grayson is just…weird.
Additionally, Barry is likable enough but I am just sort of “eh” on his whole shtick. I get why people like him, but they’re certainly not trying to reinvent the wheel here as far as I can tell. It’s just your standard superhero stuff.
If you like standard superhero fare, maybe a bit old school (in a 90s way?) this is good stuff and perfect for you! The plot is intriguing to say the least, but its overall lack of trying anything new really hurts it from being better. I like Barry trying to help the Rogues in his quest to I guess save Wally, but it feeds into the whole mess of heaping on more and more angst onto Barry who originally did not have quite so much to deal with. Not everyone needs to be Batman, and comics need to learn that. Angst does not always equal good storytelling.